Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year, New Election Speculation

No less than Don Newman seems convinced that Stephen Harper wants a spring election. There is a certain logic to it. First, the Tories have enough momentum to convince themselves of the possibility of a magical majority being within reach. That puts Stephen Harper firmly on the spring election side. The opposition has a timing issue to worry about, as in, if not now, when? The fall is probably the most logical point in terms of timing but between New Brunswick's provincial election and Ontario's municipal elections, the fall may be a little crowded this year. The following spring is a painfully long wait for an opposition leader. Letting the government go for two and a half years is not what Michael Ignatieff was appointed Liberal leader to do. Furthermore, while the 2011 budget looks like it's going to be the painful one, there is a real threat of surrendering the fiscal responsibility issue to the Tories if you vote for the big spending 2009 and 2010 budgets and vote against a fiscally prudent 2011 budget. The troops are also supposed to be home by spring 2011 (God willing) making the Afghan issue a little less relevant than it is today. Anything beyond next spring would be a dangerous game for Michael Ignatieff in terms of his own party. Thus, if the opposition parties can find an issue they like, they could drag down the government this spring. Or, Stephen Harper could decide that after the prorogation he doesn't want to face the house again and ask the Governor General for another election on his own. It would be a kind of average minority government length of 18 months.

All that said, the public doesn't want an election in their next few lifetimes let alone in the next few months and convincing them that a fourth election in six years is really worth their while will be a feat for either the opposition and the government. Finding an issue for anyone could be tricky. The Tories are hoping for an Olympic bump but I don't know how you run on "the Olympic government" platform for more than about five minutes. The opposition is mad as hell about prorogation, Afghan detainees, reckless spending and about ten other things but finding anyone outside of Ottawa who cares has proved elusive. Very few elections have been won on procedure or foreign policy and fiscal prudence is usually only demanded after taxes are raised to fight deficits. The opposition also need to bring down the government without seeming like they are forming a coalition to bring down the government, lest they conjure up the ghost of coalitions past. A tight rope for all parties to say the least.

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